Virtue Ethics and The United States Army

Caleb McCary
20 min readApr 18, 2020


In 2003, I reported to Basic Combat Training. I knew as soon as the bus pulled onto the post late in the evening that the next ten weeks of my life would like very different from anything I had experienced before. When the bus pulled up to the reception building, a forbidding looking Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) boarded and began barking instructions at the group of nervous young men. Most of us were barely out of high school. As we stumbled off the bus and into the reception building, we were surrounded by posters of soldiers engaging in various challenging physical activities. Each poster was accompanied by a letter which, when all the posters were viewed together, spelled out the acronym “LDRSHIP.” Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage. These Army values would be drilled into each of us over the next ten weeks as the Army sought to instill in a group of raw recruits a shared and consistent idea about the values needed to be a soldier in the United States Army.

By the time we reached the end of the crucible of Basic Training and our final training exercise, we stood in formation in front of our drill sergeants while AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” blared from loudspeakers. The drill sergeants walked down the line of new soldiers and handed each of us a small pendant to hang on our identification tags. It was a tag that had the Army values stamped on it. Symbolically, this ceremony meant that we had completed Basic Combat Training and now, in the eyes of the Army, had the Army values ingrained into us. We were not civilians anymore. We were not recruits anymore. We were soldiers. The expectation was that we would leave Basic Training ready to live out the Army values as soldiers, whether in or out of uniform.

Unfortunately, ten weeks of Basic Combat Training is insufficient for inculcating the kind of values the Army wants to see in its soldiers. This paper will illustrate the need for ongoing character development training in soldiers using a modified system of virtue ethics based on the Army values that nests with current Army doctrine and training soldiers already receive. This paper will argue the United States Army must provide, through unit Chaplains in their roles as ethical advisors and trainers, sustained, consistent, and realistic training on virtue ethics to all soldiers in order to instill those values into soldiers throughout their careers.[1]

Caleb McCary

Experienced Chaplain. Photography Enthusiast. Lover of learning. Reader of books. Sci-Fi fan.